We’re in the midst of a sermon series on the book of Job called “Grappling with God through Grief.” One of the most tangible ways to love one another is walking with one another through grief. But many of us struggle with some of the practical questions, such as: Should I show up or give space? What should I say? What should I avoid saying? This post is an attempt to help you help others grieve as well as give you some additional resources to continue growing in your care for others in difficult times of loss.
Written by Beth Baus, KCC Deacon of Care Ministry.
Walking with someone through grief is a privilege, as it’s an opportunity to love, support, comfort, and rely on the Lord in a very specific way. But it’s also a burden of love because grief is hard, exhausting, time-consuming, and can change a person forever.
As someone who has both experienced grief and walked with others through grief, I offer some thoughts on what I’ve learned over the years.
1. You don’t have to understand
Sometimes we don’t understand other peoples’ grief or why they seem to grieve so deeply and for so long, but we must remember this: Romans 12:15 doesn’t say, “Weep with those who weep if you think their grief is justified.” It simply says, “Weep with those who weep.” Acknowledge the pain the grieving person is feeling, and let them guide you in how they need you to be there for them.
2. Just be there
For some, grief brings a sense of vulnerability, and they can’t stand the thought of being alone. They need a person right by their side to feel like they aren’t unraveling. Be there. Others want someone around but without the pressure of engaging with them. Be there. And even for those who want to be completely left alone, you can be there by letting them know you’re available when they’re ready.
3. Be prepared for sacrifice
There might be times when the grieving person seems normal on the outside—meaning they aren’t crying, isolating, or neglecting themselves—but on the inside, they can’t think straight. Decision-making skills are affected, and the smallest obstacle can seem like the biggest ordeal. You can help by relieving the grieving person of as many responsibilities as possible. Clean for them, cook for them, babysit, or mow the lawn. By adding what you can to your own plate, you are blessing the grieving person and living out Philippians 2:4, which tells us to put the interests of others before our own.
4. Be prepared for change
If you’ve never experienced deep grief yourself, you might not expect the changes it can bring, especially in the case of losing a close loved one or receiving a life-changing diagnosis. Changes might seem subtle at first but can be striking as time goes on. Things like changes in sleeping and eating habits, lack of motivation, chronic fatigue, or irritability. Someone who once seemed carefree might now be more serious. These changes might be short-lived or permanent depending on the situation.
5. Be kind and gracious
We all say things we don’t mean from time to time, but grief can bring out the worst in us. Grieving people often say and do things they wouldn’t normally say or do. Grieving people may hurt your feelings, be insensitive, or just make life all about them for a time. It’s important not to respond in anger or defensiveness. Many grieving people don’t remember saying hurtful things. Be kind, be gracious.
6. Be patient and persevere
Something strange happens in the wake of grief…life goes on. Friends and family are typically on high alert and ready to help in any way possible in the beginning, but then they get back to their normal routines, and the grieving one is left feeling alone and uncared for. This is when you need to re-energize and set in for the long haul. Galatians 6:2 tells us, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” It’s a beautiful sight to behold when someone is longsuffering for another, just as God is longsuffering for us.
This may seem obvious, but sometimes prayer is the first thing that goes by the wayside in a time of crisis. One grieving person may be in a constant posture of crying out to God while another might be feeling such despair that prayer seems meaningless. Pray with and for the grieving person. Remind them of Romans 8:26, that the Spirit prays for us when we don’t have the words.
8. Be an encourager
If you’re walking with a grieving person, now is not the time to be frivolous with your words. For instance, don’t say to a grieving person, “I thought you’d be over this by now,” or ask, “When will you move on?” What they need to hear is, “I love you,” “I’m here for you,” and “I’m praying for you.” When you see them making an effort and having a “good day”, tell them you’re proud of how strong they are in hard times. Build them up, encourage them. Be intentional to not make them feel like a burden, but rather make them feel like a priority and a privilege to serve.
- Paul David Tripp — Grief (booklet)
- Randy Alcorn — Heaven: Biblical Answers to Common Questions (booklet)
- Jonathan Gibson — The Moon is Always Round (kids’ picture book)
- Paul Tautges — A Small Book for the Hurting Heart: Meditations on Loss, Grief, and Healing (devotional)
- Gospel Hope in Grief and Loss (Daily Grace Co. devotional)
- Gospel Hope in Pregnancy and Infant Loss (Daily Grace Co. devotional)
- Nancy Guthrie — Grieving a Loss (video)
- Paul David Tripp — Gospel Hope When Life Doesn’t Made Sense (video)
- C. S. Lewis — A Grief Observed
- Mark Vroegop — Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy
- Mel Lawrenz — A Chronicle of Grief (Finding Life after Traumatic Loss)
Resources for helpers of those who are grieving:
- Nancy Guthrie — What Grieving People Wish You Knew about What Really Helps (and What Really Hurts)
- Nancy Guthrie’s Story of Hope in the Midst of Grief (video)
- Edward T. Welch — Side by Side – Or it’s abridged version Caring for One Another
- Any of the resources listed above in “Resources for those who are grieving”